I have always been a summer borscht person. Cold, bright pink, herby, and full of buttermilk I could eat that soup every day. But this simple hot borscht brought me to the other side, and now I embrace both seasons of borscht. I imagined this soup as much more complicated I wrote recipes that included everything from cabbage to tomato to caraway. But my friend Hedley steered me on the right course, describing a bowl of soup she’d had years ago when she needed it most. She’d never forgotten it: “Just beets and carrots, all boiled in the simplest broth. Then there was lemon, and crème fraîche, and so much parsley right at the end, as if parsley was a leafy green.”
I would have never had the courage to simplify it so much, but I made the soup just as she’d described it. There’s not even a sauté here everything just boils, and the result is so good. The vegetables go tender and sweet, bathing in a deep red broth that is simply beet elixir. Crème fraîche or sour cream adds richness, and if you want them, the hard-boiled eggs make it even more of a meal. But one addition I insist upon no matter what is buttered rye toast. It’s essential.
- Yield: 2 Quarts
- 1½ pounds beets (3 to 5 medium beets), peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
- ½ pound carrots (2 large carrots), halved lengthwise, and cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 cups halved and sliced leeks (from 1 to 2 leeks, using the white and tender green parts)
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- Crème fraîche or sour cream; 2 cups roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley (about 1 bunch); hard-boiled eggs (optional), sliced; buttered rye toasts
- Combine the beets, carrots, leeks, stock, and the bay leaf in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Cover the pot, bring the mixture to a low boil, and reduce the heat to medium-low to keep it at a lively simmer. Cook, covered, until the vegetables are quite tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 35 minutes. Taste the broth. If there’s no salt in your stock, add 1½ teaspoons salt. If it’s salted at all, add ¼ teaspoon, taste, and add more until it tastes good to you. Remove the pot from the heat, and add lots of fresh pepper. Remove the bay leaf.
- Ladle the soup into bowls. Give each bowl a generous squeeze of lemon, a scoop of crème fraîche, and a handful of parsley. Serve with sliced hard-boiled eggs, if desired, and buttered rye toasts on the side.